Thursday, December 30, 2010

new year

It is the end of another year and as I have had the opportunity to do for every year since we opened, I want to thank each person who has visited the winery for their business. We have had another sales-breaking year and that encourages us, especially right now when we are running on little sleep and had little recreation outside the winery for the past two months. You make us feel like it’s worth it.

We are running a business, true enough, but a customer once said wine is “artwork in a bottle”. I love making wine and my wife and I love meeting people and talking wine with them. We love the people who come in and say, “WE know nothing about wine!” and we love the serious wine drinkers who come in and say, “WE like your wines; they are special, unique, different!” Those are what make owning a small winery worthwhile.

As you may have heard before, we started this winery with the hope of allowing an early retirement, an opportunity to make a modest living working for ourselves. Few people get rich owning a winery, but you can make a living if you are good enough and make the right decisions. The idea of opening a winery is not about wealth, its about passion and desiring to live your dream. And you who visit the winery are enabling us to live that dream.

Thank you.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

whine, wine, whine,

I have been a bit frustrated in the winery lately with how the wine is maturing. I expected to have several new wines out by now, but we have just a couple. Now that does not mean there is nothing new. The fruit wines have been re-blended and, I think, greatly improved. The new dry red, VAN BUREN, continues to be a good seller. Gift baskets have stressed my wife, to keep up I mean. But that’s normal for this time of year, we pretty much are swamped day and night and that’s just the way is is. In January we can relax….

I was asked why we were having problem getting some of our more popular wines to the point of bottling and the truth is, well, I screwed up! I did not take in to consideration that the big upswing in sales last winter/spring would impact availability fall/winter. So we did not order more of our Concord, Catawaba, and Niagara juice early enough o allow them to be ready for prime sales time, that would be NOW!

So, we will shortly have several of our old favorites back in the bottle, just not now, when we really need them. I am enthused about a new wine, WHITEWATER, we expect to release after the new year that is a great blend of three good grapes, watch for us to tell you who-when-what here soon!

Well, I am back in the winery, bottling some more of these apple wines you guys keep buying. Thanks, by the way…

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nick and Knacs

Oh boy do my arms hurt! We got 20 new barrels in and I have been trying to make room for them and five big tanks in the winery. Yes, here at the peak of the winemaking season we are bringing more juice so we’ll have it when we need it next year. The winery is going to be chock full of barrels and tanks and there will be little room to work around in there. Oh well…

So we are very happy with the feedback from our 2010 “nouveau” wine, VAN BUREN, made with the Indiana-grown Chambourcin grapes. We serve it slightly chilled, but I like it room temperature myself. Its pretty fruit-forward, as we say in wine-speak and I like it better than any other nouveau style wine I’ve ever made.

We are trying to get the BUNKER HILL sweet Concord wine in the bottle, but its just not quite ready. We are going to bottle the new vintage SWAYZEE, HANGING ROCK, and WILDCAT CREEK WHITE very soon. I’ll let you know.

Our “Black Friday” promotion went much better than we thought it would, a lot of people took advantage of our early hours, special deals, and free eats. It was fun and we sold a lot of wine, yea!

Just a few weeks left in 2010 and this has been great year for the winery. Thanks to all those who visited, tasted and took home a few bottles. We are working on some new stuff at the winery we hope you will find interesting and exciting. Keep an eye here and we’ll keep you up to date. We will also make the announcement here when the 2009 BUNKER HILL is (finally) in house and for sale.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Black Friday

So, some of you will not even go to bed on Thursday, because a few of the crazy retail stores open at midnight or 3 am, right? Well, we are not so crazy at the Oak Hill Winery. But we will suggest you stop by and see us after walking your tootsies off and wearing down the stripe on your credit cards. Ok, we might even have a deal or so for you, but what you will really need is a time-out to recoup and rest-up. So here we go...

--yes, even we will open early this friday!
We will open at 11:00 am to give you two extra hours in the winery and...

--from 11 am to 1 pm only:
Save a dollar more per bottle off our regular discounted price!

--Join the Wine Club:
Join at the regular price for one year and two extra free bottles just for joining!

--need to mellow out?
Mugs of hot, spiced Kokomo Cider are just three bucks Friday only!

--One more enticement:
Free cookies and snacks, while they last...

Ok, one more:
--we'll be releasing our NEW NOUVEAU RED wine called VAN BUREN - Its a 2010 Indiana Chambourcin!

- So don't miss the fun from 11 am to 6 pm on Friday at the Oak Hill Winery!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fire and Wine

I am sure many of you have heard the news that Grape Inspirations Winery in Carmel burned down last week. I cannot imagine where you start after having your whole business reduced to ashes. I suppose you start out by designing a new building and getting it built. That would shoot a year at least. Then you would probably find another winery where you could start making wine again, under their license, so you’d have product when the new building was ready. Maybe the ATC (state) and TTB (federal) agencies would allow you to use a temporary building to make your wine, but the hassle of setting up such a facility would most likely lead you back to finding another winery where you could work.

Problem is; how many Indiana wineries have space to handle such a process? Every winery I have visited is pretty tight on climate-controlled square footage, although I know a few have helped some new wineries get started before they had a building. So it’s possible, I guess. I hope we never have to face that problem!

What’s new at the winery? We bottled our “Nouveau” style red wine this week, which we will release next Friday (11/26) as our salute to the French Tradition of releasing their new wines on the third Thursday of November. For those wine enthusiasts among us, that is this Thursday (18th) and I am sure many local wine stores will have a batch to sell. Here is what Wikipedia says about it:

“Beaujolais nouveau is a red wine made from Gamay grapes produced in the Beaujolais region of France. It is the most popular 'vin de primeur', fermented for just a few weeks then officially released for sale on the third Thursday of November. This "Beaujolais Day", or "Beaujolais Nouveau Day" sees heavy marketing from the producers, with races to get the first bottles of the vintage to different markets. Beaujolais Nouveau is a purple-pink wine that is particularly lightweight, even by the standards of Beaujolais. The method of production means that there is very little tannin, and the wine can be dominated by fruity, ester flavors of bananas, figs and pear drops. These are enhanced by the frequent recommendation to serve the wine lightly chilled, at approximately 55°F.”

Last year we had several of these new-style wines, but this year we have only a small batch of some Indiana-grown Chambourcin that we handled to be drinkable at this very young age. I am very pleased with the result, as the grapes were picked on September 18; the fermentation began on the 19th and completed (for-the-most-part) by the 28th; then we left the new wine on the skins for two weeks; then pumped off the free-run; and pressed the skins on October 9th. So the wine has only been tanked for five weeks or so and out of the vineyard for two months.

So what does it taste like? Hard to answer, because I have been riding this wine almost daily, watching and tasting. I feel its got a strong Chambourcin flavor, with overtones of ripe fruit, blackberries and currants. I drank about 500ml of the unfiltered stuff left in the hose and filter housing last night and was very pleased. I want to try it well chilled and see how that impacts the flavor. I am quite happy with the color of the wine, although there is a noticeable “muddiness” as you might expect with a young, naturally made wine. Well anyway, stop by on BLACK FRIDAY and enjoy a taste of this new wine. Have a seat and rest your feet after slogging through the malls, enjoy a glass of wine and some Indiana-made cheese.

By the way, last spring I said I would do three things: (1) paint the house; (2) install the new background music system; (3) finish the downstairs trim and paneling. Ok, well the music works now, OK, but its not the end of the year yet, I might still (haw-haw) get some carpentry work done.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Accepting Complaints in this Line...

Ok, Ok, Ok! I know it’s been a while since I posted on here, but gosh-darn-golly-sakes its THAT TIME OF YEAR! Yes, we do just shy of 50% of our business in the last three months of the year, fairly typical for the winery business in general. So we’ve been working hard in the winery and we HAD to take a little get-away for our Fall Missouri Winery Tour. No, you did not miss a notice, every fall we go west with some friends to drink wine and canoe the clear waters of the Ozark Hills. But that’s all over now and we are back in the saddle and riding hard! So what’s going on in the winery?

The press of the 2010 fermented Chambourcin red-grapes went very well, it was the first use of the new, bigger press and I am delighted with the result. A bladder press has a rubber membrane that you fill with water while it squeezes the wine-juice out of the skins. You do not want to press too hard though, the wine will begin to taste bitter as the skins and seeds break down and put undesirable flavors into the juice. With the help of my able assistant, Jamin, we monitored the juice closely until it was just starting to give us that bitter taste and cut it off.

We have set aside a small barrel of this wine to re-ferment and bottle in just a few weeks as our 2010 "NOUVEAU" red wine in the French tradition. You might recall last year was our first effort at a nouveau style red wine and it went well. We will introduce that wine (name to be determined) on November 26th, so plan to stop in on BLACK FRIDAY to relax from the shopping and set a spell and taste some wine.

The winery’s “gift shop” is now pretty well stocked and if you have not seen some on the neat new stuff, you should stop in! The wife is cranking out the gift baskets day by day, every year we sell more than the year before and they start at just $19.99. Keep in mind she will design a basket for you (with notice) to meet your needs and price point.

Well, I’ll try to squeeze in more time to post here, there is much going on to talk about, several new wines coming out in the next 30 days; the winter Free Seminar schedule will be forthcoming; and in December we will have a special program to sign up new Wine Club members, so if you’ve been thinking about that, watch the website and here for a special offer coming in December!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taking the Fall and All

As the first crisp notes of Fall whirl around us, we start to think about years ago, things past, and nostalgia often sets in. This is not bad, especially for those of us over 45 years of age, as we have so much to remember and ponder over.

For me, the last ten years of starting a winery has many fond memories and lessons learned. But the point of matter is I have never seen a better year for grapes here in Indiana. What I am wondering is, 2009 was a tremendous year for apples and we are introducing this weekend the new vintage of both KOKOMO CIDER and INDIANA APPLE, unquestionably the best batch of apple wines I have ever made. So how will 2010 be?

So, in a few weeks I will head out to see the Hainlens at the orchard just outside of Converse to order the 2010 apple juice we will turn into next year’s apple wine. The late summer has been very dry. Will that cause a more intense flavor in the apple? Or did the heat keep the fruit from maturing and the lack of rain allow the acids to be out of balance with the sweetness? Only time will tell…

A few weeks ago we did a loop around Jackson, Michigan and hit four of the wineries on the Pioneer Wine Trail as a kind of scouting trip for a possible bus tour up there. The first stop was SLEEPING BEAR winery, right on I-94, in what was formerly a tasting room outlet for St Julian’s Winery based in Paw Paw. They are new and just have an initial offering of wines, but had some winners that were very good. Now, they take what some will call a “cutsy” approach to wine, using cartoon characters on their labels, but the wine stands up well. The 2009 Vignoles and the Cab Franc were both very tasty.

Next stop was SAND HILL CRANE vineyards and they had a huge tasting list and insisted we try every one! They had a superb 2006 dry Traminette; a Sassy Rose’ made with dry Cab Franc; and the Vignoles Pyment, just kissed by a dash of Michigan honey, all were excellent choices.

In the small town of Tecumseh, we found PENTAMERE winery, saying they are an “urban” winery. Located in a historic building with an open wine-making area with elevated walkway for tours, I’d say they are right, in a small-town kinda-way. I want to highlight their Morningstar, made with Seyval Blanc and Pinot Gris, plus their Michigan Cherry, a semi-dry wine I thought said “cherry” without messing the thought up!

Our last stop for the day was the very popular CHERRY CREEK CELLARS, the busiest winery we visited. Being a red wine drinker, I loved their Pinot Noir, but the people with me approved strongly of their wines named Jazz, a red wine and raspberry (!!!) blend; and a off-dry red, La Mia Famiglia. It took some time to get in and out of their small, brick school-house, tasting room, but the wine was worth it.

We missed the other four due to time constraints, but will plan on going up to see what else the area wineries’ offer. I have been asked before about a Michigan winery tour, but we generally go out in March (too early to go north) and August, a much nicer time to visit Michigan. So we’ll talk and see what we can put together for the Summer 2010 Bus Tour. We have tentatively set SE Indiana as out 2011 Spring Winery Bus Tour destination, returning to Madison and the surrounding countryside. If you’d like to get email notices iof our bus tours, send us an email with the subject line BUS TOURS and we will get you a notice when available.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Winners and winners???

Ok, we had 19 amateur entries in the contest this past weekend and now the Cheesecake winners are known: TOP PRIZE goes to CHERYL YOUNG for her Pina Colada, yum!

First runner up was MARK SILER’s Pecan & Carmel creation;
Second runner-up - MARLA LINES for her New York Style with Red Raspberry Sauce.

I tell you folks, I did not taste a bad one in the bunch and how you can say one is better then another. THANK YOU to all the entrants, we had a very busy day at the winery for the Cheesecake Festival and I believe a good time was had by all!

The COMMERCIAL division was won by SAM’s CLUB, but I forgot to see whose cheesecake they entered on their behalf, so I’ll get you the who and what of the winner very soon!

With our biggest event of the year over, what’s do we have to look forward to in the months to come? As mentioned previously, on October 2 we will release two new versions of our apple wine. First is the ever popular KOKOMO CIDER and we will have it hot & spiced for you to try, as well as chilled. What we are all excited about is the new INDIANA APPLE, an off-dry apple wine that several people have said is the best apple wine they have ever tasted. I felt that’s a bit strong to say about a barrel sample, but we were sipping some of this at the Festival, nicely chilled, and I will say its better then I expected.

We have a little of the 2008 Indiana Apple left, just a few cases. We are blowing it out at $5 a bottle while its lasts!!! A good dry apple wine that is excellent for cooking, sipping, or makes an fabulous spritzer (add 1/3 ginger ale).

In an upcoming blog, I will review our visit to the Pioneer Wine Trail near Jackson, Michigan, where we found some very good wines, well worth the drive up there for.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I got behind!

Sorry! I have gotten behind on my blog updates, primarily due to the CHEESECAKE festival (Saturday, September 18, 1-6 pm), plus we are having website problems that have eaten up a lot of time trying to fix. I want to get started on the TWO wine tours we have been on in the past few weeks. Let's do one at a time:

First, the 2010 Summer Bus Tour went very well! Everyone showed up on time to get on the bus (7 am is early on a Saturday) and we did not lose anyone along the way. But how did it go?

Our first stop was Oliver Winery and the folks there opened up a bit early to accommodate us and we had a great time! Half went on tour of their impressive production facilities; the other half did a tasting. The results were quite surprising, in my view. Too often the “Big O” gets forgotten in the search for great wine, we think of Oliver as the “sweet wine” winery. But in truth they knocked us out with the variety and consistency of their wines, not to mention very nice tastes. A lot of wine was bought and not much was sweet, don’t miss Oliver’s next time you are in the neighborhood.

A few minutes away we visited Butler Winery’s winery & vineyard and found another great selection of wines. I think Jim has a real style to his wines and his vineyard was gorgeous.

The next stop was lunch, but the next winery was Carousel, right on the highway as we headed south towards New Albany. I found some reds there I really liked and a Pinot Gris my wife found very tasty.

Our last stop was in New Albany’s River City Winery, where we found more (repetitive?) great wines and a very nice dinner as well. If you visit the winery, come for food too!

Our stay at the Hampton Inn went well and all were ready for a Sunday morning tasting at Turtle Run Winery. Jim, the owner, looked a bit ill to me and he admitted he had went to bed at 2 am and got up about 5 am to be ready for us. Why? Because harvest was running well ahead of schedule due to our hot weather! Jim is one of the most entertaining and informative winemakers I know and the group of 44 wine “tourers” all agreed. For the first time, we were running behind schedule because everyone wanted some Turtle Run Wine. We wound our way through the scenic countryside to BEST Vineyards where we enjoyed the view from the deck while tasting excellent wine from this newer winery. The Chardonnell was wonderful…

We headed north and hit Chateau DePique where everyone was impressed with the wedding chapel as well as their wines. We hit Buck Creek, a winery the group had specifically asked if we could visit again and the gang there kept us moving towards dinner at a local buffet.

We made it home a bit after 9 pm and everyone scattered for home. The wife and I both agreed the trip went very well and we look forward to next spring’s winery bus tour. I think we need to return to Madison, its been two years and there are some new wineries down that way that need checking out…

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stuffy head...

Ok, I will admit it, I have a cold and I have had a cold for about a week. It’s a sinus thing, I am not contagious (probably) and the only problem with the cold, other then the sniffing-wiping-coughing is, I cannot taste wine correctly.

Yep, when you have a cold you do not taste wine correctly or rather, as it really tastes because your olfactory sense is shut down or at least, inhibited. So here I am bottling wine and blending away without being able to get a fair idea what the wine tastes like.

So I call the wife out and say, “Taste this!” Now my wife prefers dry white wines, but has a good feel for what our customers will like, but she almost always says, “Not sweet enough!” So I adjust the sweetness and hand her another sample until we get it right and that’s what we did last night.

I was bottling another batch of a new wine for us, a blueberry we call STOCKDALE, and had a small batch of cherry wine I had not finished, which I did bottle called ROANN. Now these are still what I call in the “test phase” as I tweak the recipe for the new ’09 vintage, but we would appreciate your comments on both wines.

I have gotten two new wine labels approved, VAN BUREN and EEL RIVER follows our policy of using local names for our local wines. I do not know what each will be, but we got a few surprises coming we hope you will enjoy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The next big event in our winery’s calendar is the Cheesecake Festival and as you might recall, it has been one of our biggest events year after year. BUT in 2010 we have had several events that have reached the popularity of this fun day of eating and sipping. The Spring Open House was a hit and I am sure many readers were present for the recent Chocolate Festival that found us swamped with customers.

As mentioned, the Cheesecake Festival will be held Saturday, September 18 from 1-6 pm at the winery. Amateur and professional cheesecake-makers (cheesecakes are not “baked” I have learned) are invited to submit their best creation for judging prior to that date during our regular business hours. The deadline for professional entries is 2 pm day-of and amateurs by 4 pm. The professional entries will be judged by the public, who will vote for their favorite. The amateurs will be judged by a panel from the Oak Hill Wine Club with the panel kept secret to avoid proffered bribes, frankly they are susceptible.

We are very busy in the wine “cellar” as the harvest progresses, getting things straightened up, barrels cleaned, tanks readied. I have been working on the new press, getting it ready for its first pressing. We have several new labels being printed, a few new wines in the works, and a couple of surprises yet to be announced (building suspense).

I was asked recently why I do not review other wines on my blog here and I replied “Its not a wine review blog!” Plus I want people to buy wine they like and I do mention wine I found and like; like ‘Tre Blanc’ from Casa Largo and ‘Twinkle’ from the NY meadery. So I do, kind’a, review some wines…

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Late Summer Update

This is the busy time of year! Why? Because we face the oncoming CRUSH! Ok, that’s wine-speak for the harvest and this year is particularly interesting because the excessive heat has ripened the grapes better and faster than usual.

We like to get a load of Chardonnel grapes every year from southern Indiana and we often pick these up around Labor Day. My guy called me and said, “They’re ready, come get them this weekend!” Getting grapes WEEKS early then usual and with better sugar and acid than ever before is exciting for a winemaker.

We picked up a new wine press from another winery that was upgrading, so we can now process ¾ of a ton instead of 100lbs at a pressing. That will save time and allow us to buy more local fruit than ever before, although the press needs a little work, but we got a great deal on it!

Our business continues to grow, which surprises me a bit. I thought after seven years sales would level off, but we continue to see an uptick in the number of people through our doors, although since the economy crashed our sale-per-ticket is down. So we are attracting more new people to the winery but they buy less per visit than they did two years ago. Hummm…

One problem we are having is we are running out of the 2008 vintage before the 2009 is ready to bottle, oops! Our popular BUNKER HILL is almost gone and will not be back until probably November, along with its dry version, SEVEN PILLARS. This is due to us taking late delivery on some grape juice to allow us to process our new line of dry reds we got last September.

Our new vintage of Niagara wines is very different this year, the FAIRMOUNT has some interesting flavors I have never gotten before, overtones of honey and pear. Its good, but its nothing like its 2008 vintage. JALAPA is the dry version and I have not released the 2009 as we finish up the 2008 vintage. I would call this Michigan-grown grape much softer and less acidic then the last batch.

We are very excited about our 2009 dry Riesling, which has matured very nicely over the past few months. Our 2008 vintage IRON BRIDGE has been popular and one of my favorites, but I think the 2009 will stand up very well to it. We hope to have it in the shop in the next two weeks!

The Summer Wine Club (its full, sorry) bus tour is just around the corner and we are enthused to be visiting several new wineries most of us have never been to. River City Winery in New Albany is hosting us for a tasting and dinner on Saturday and Best Vineyards is one of the Sunday stops. Its always fun to visit new wineries and these are mostly those along the Ohio River, so we don’t get down there too often.

If you have a question about wine, winemaking, or the Oak Hill Winery in genral, write at and we'll try to answer it here!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


So this lady asked me why our wine corks have “dimples” and it took me a minute to understand what she was saying. When you get ready to open a bottle of our wine and remove the capsule top, you can see a small dimple in the top of our synthetic corks.

The dimple is where the corker pushes the cork down into the bottle. Keep in m ind we do everything by hand here, so if you have a bottle of our wine, its about a 95% chance I put the cork in it.

The corker squeezes the cork and then I pull a piston down the rams the cork into the bottle before it can fully expand again, sealing the bottle. I have been very, very pleased with the synthetic corks, they seem to seal better; they allow customers to store wine upright if they so choose, they seem easy to withdraw (no customer complaints); and they cost no more than regular low-end corks. The best part is we do not get the chipping when we put the cork in or when you take it out that we did with real corks.

I said I put in about 95% of the corks, I do occasionally have kind friends who offer to help out and a few crazy customers who want to assist. Due to cleanliness rules, we cannot let just anybody in the winery to help, you have to get cleaned up, a bit sanitized if you will, to help. Since I am doing the corking in the evenings, I do not get a lot of volunteers and since we do small batches I can handle a few hours corking fairly well. Maybe as I get older I will try a Tom Sawyer routine and tell everyone how much fun corking and bottling is, and everyone should drive a few thousand corks into a bottle for exercise!

For our 44 Winery Bus Tour participants, I’ll inject a little news: we have confirmed the Hampton Inn as our overnight stay and it has a pool, hot tub, and exercise room. We are still working on the Saturday dinner menu, but it looks like we will be wine tasting and eating at the new River City Winery in New Albany, your menu choices will come by email soon. Best Vineyards has signed on for a Sunday tasting slot, specializing in their semi-sweet estate wines. To get us home at a decent hour Sunday, we will have a buffet at a Ryans Steakhouse in the Indianapolis area, it’s the fastest way to feed 50 people!

Keep in mind our HOOSIER CHEESE DAYS celebration of Indiana-made cheese begins August 14 and lasts as long as ten pounds of cheese lasts…

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Parties and Blueberries

Wow! I know I have said it here before, but it is truly rewarding to hold a special event and have a bunch of people show up and enjoy it. The Chocolate & Wine Festival this past Saturday was a HUGE success, even to a fault, I was stuck in Peru in an unavoidable meeting for two hours and when I got to the winery about 3:30, the cars were parked all over and the tasting room was packed! Needless to say, my wife and single staffer were torn between “happy to see me” and killing me for “where have you been?”

So for the next two hours I met group after group, pouring wine, and offering sample of gourmet chocolate. I am afraid the crowds we had made it hard to give each visitor the time we prefer to spend with them, but we did or best to do what we could. I hope they will come back when we can give them more time.

Ok, the bus is full! If anyone out there would like to go, we will establish a waiting list. Occasionally we have someone who signs up run into a personal situation and they ask us to see if someone can take their place. So email us if you want on the list…

One of the surprises we dropped on the festival goers was a test batch of our blueberry wine. Honestly, I was not happy with it, but several serious wine drinkers told me they thought it was good. So I bottled a small batch and sent it out and people seem to like it! Well, they bought it, so it must be good. Even winemakers are not always on when balancing flavor, both to the good and the bad.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Last Chances? Yes and No...

We have openings for four couples left on the August 28-29 bus tour, so this is the last chance for you to join our merry band of wine tasters as we wander Indiana wineries. Once we fill this bus, that’s it! So call, stop, by, or email if you’d like to come along!

Coming up soon is the Chocolate & Wine Festival on Saturday, July 17 from 1-6 pm. We’ll have live music from 2-5 pm and special snacks, gourmet chocolates, and lots of fun. We hope you’ll join us for our seventh anniversary celebration while we mix and match J. Edwards Chocolates with our wines!

Do you have a special occasion you’d like to celebrate too? Consider a private party at the Winery! Two hours of fun and information begins at just $149 and we offer many options for you to choose from. Email us for more information!

Friday, July 2, 2010

New York, New York!

So what are the wineries in NY’s Finger Lakes like? Wow, as you might guess, they are as varied and wineries anywhere else. As mentioned in the last post, their buildings were a variety of shapes and sizes, but by far the most common were simple metal-sided buildings that the owners had often enhanced with a fancy entrance, a garden walk, a large fountain, or a bit of décor to add a bit of distinct character.

The interiors were pretty nice, for the most part. There were a few that were simple concrete floors with typical retail furniture and a tasting bar, but many had very attractive interiors with a theme even beyond just being a winery.

The wine was good, as with any full day of wine tasting we found a lot of good, some very good, and a few really great wines. We found some high priced wines and a few real bargains. We (four people) spent most of the week drinking a case of Casa Largo’s Tre Blanc, a semi-dry white made with 57% Muscat, 33% Traminette, 10% Gewürztraminer, and paid $59 a case (not a typo) for it. Yes, that’s less then $5 a bottle and when I asked why, the staffer said it was an ’08 vintage and they wanted to clear it out because the ’09 was about to bottle. Wow, what a good wine at a great price.

We ran into something I did not expect, a meadery, along Seneca Lake. It was a division of another large winery that specialized in fruity honey wines, yet they also had some great off dry meads worth a taste. Their slightly sweet pear mead was good, but their sparkling mead, “Twinkle” was fabulous!

As I have said, the problem with this area is the short distance between the wineries allows no “recovery time” and without much trouble you start feeling the accumulated tastings quickly. So you have to research and pick and choose which wineries to visit in advance. Our tasting room staffer, Chris, had spent some time doing such and gave us six great wineries to stop at. Problem #2 is most of the wineries have extensive wines lists offering 20 or more wines. How to choose which to taste?

The wineries have developed a method for handling this problem, they charge for tastings (!) and they limit your tastings, typically to six. Now, you know from reading my earlier blogs I do not ‘believe’ in paid tastings. I think in these folks case, I agree with their thinking. This region is nationally famous, like Sonoma or Napa in California, and thousands come here to tour and taste weekly. There are people, the staffers told me, who do pay, taste, and leave; it’s what they do. I must admit I would not hesitate to leave without buying if nothing struck my fancy and paying allows me to leave without any guilt about their time or samples provided.

But here’s what won me over in the Finger Lakes, every winery we visited applied your tasting fees ($1-$5 per person) to your purchases. Several were “sloppy” about collecting these fees with us and most gave us more then the five or six taste limit. I still feel paid tastings are a bad idea for Indiana, but I think these people have the right idea for their situation.

BUS TOUR DEADLINE: a reminder that the all deposits for the August 28/29 southern Indiana bus tour must be in by July 10!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Ok, so I have been “offline” for OVER two weeks, but I have a good reason: we were on vacation! A good bit of the vacation (for tax purposes) was touring wineries, tasting wine, and purchasing what you might call, ahh, well, ummm, some “samples” for review back at home for future production consideration, of course.

We toured the Finger Lakes Wine Region in New York and the problem was not finding the wineries, it was choosing which ones of the 100+ you wanted to visit in your time there. There are over 9100 acres of vineyard in just this area producing over 41,000 tons of grapes each year. The scenery is beautiful, with the long lakes full of sailboats, streets lined with Victorian homes and cottages, and lots of crafts, antique, and locally-produced food stores.

In just one five hour period along Seneca Lake we passed at least 15 wineries and stopped at six. We saw wineries that looked like a French Chateau and some were in Morton Buildings. Some had wines made with premium grapes and tasted world class, others were names “Red-Neck Red” and “Granny’s Outhouse White” and tasted, well, a bit better then the name suggested. If you are a wine “nut”, this is a place you could spend a week, and then go into rehab and detox.

BUS TOUR: We are only half booked for the Aug 28/29 Southern Indiana Winery Bus Tour! We will extend the reservation deadline until July 10, but that is the cutoff!

CHOCOLATE ANNIVERSARY: July 17th is our seventh anniversary and we will be celebrating with FREE gourmet chocolates, and music, and some other goodies, so be here 1-6pm Saturday the 17th and join in the fun!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

More Bread and Bus, plus a Calendar Update!

--Ok, so I have been asked to detail the Bread Baking contest rules & information, being held Saturday, June 12, 1-6 pm. Seems there are already people clamoring for the who, what, when, where, and how. Ok, here goes…

The Bread Baking Contest is broken into professional and amateur classes; we welcome commercial entries from bakers, grocery stores, restaurants, and just about anyone who sells or serves bread professionally; The home bread makers fall into the amateur class and we often will split out any unusual breads into their own class, so a simple (but delicious) sourdough bread is not competing with rich chocolate chip loaf.

All entrants must submit one full loaf of bread; each entrant may submit no more then two breads, four total per household; Professional entries must be at the winery no later then 2 pm the day of the contest; Amateur entries must be at the winery no later then 4 pm the day of the contest; Entries may be dropped off the Friday prior between 1-6 pm at the winery; NO BREAD-MAKING MACHINES MAY BE USED for entries;

The professional entries will be judged by the public, by those visiting the winery that day. The amateur entries will be judged by a panel of bread-lovers after the winery closes for the day. Based on the results of both judgings, awards will be made by yours truly for the best of the best, which includes photos on the wall of the winery for the next year.

---BUS TOUR: Yes, we are taking another swing at holding a bus tour of wineries in southern Indiana. At this time we are accepting reservations for the first 22 couples who wish to go, with an estimated cost of under $300 per couple, $100 deposits will be accepted beginning June 5 to reserve your spots, sorry, no singles can be accommodated.

---CALENDAR UPDATE: On the website we have set the schedule for the special events from June through September, so if you want to set aside the time to hit the bread, chocolate, cheese, or cheesecake events, see the website now at

Thursday, May 27, 2010

summer, Vintage Indiana and a bus tour

Summer does seem to be here, although technically its still spring. 80+ degree days says summer to me and the rain + sun = grass growing like mad. Well we have made a few changes at the winery, although not as many as I had hoped. There are a few chores that are dragging into the summer that were supposed to be winter jobs, but nothing too serious.

We did start putting in a new “welcome” garden at the winery, regular rain has kept us from finishing it up, but I think we will get done pretty soon. It’s a modest little patch but it is in great spot to greet customers and catch a lot of sun. Our staffer Christine has been planning this for several months and I’m looking forward to seeing the result. Of course, any new garden needs a season to really show its stuff, so we’ll be patient, but its one less little piece of lawn I have to mow!

Vintage Indiana 2010 is just a little over a week away at Military Park in Indianapolis. This is a great chance to try a lot of INDIANA wine in one place. If you have not been there before, check out for all the details, It’s a food and wine “orgy” so you might need a room afterwards  -- There are 26 Indiana wineries scheduled to attend and no, we are not one of them. I see there are 11 food vendors and a whole bunch of art vendors. What more can you ask then local wine, local food, and local art all in one place. It runs from 11am-7pm on June 5, so it’s about time to plan your visit. Allow at least three hours for your visit, there will be lines for tasting and you’ll want to talk to other wine junkies you’ll meet there. We were hoping to go as tasters, but something came up ---sigh-!, so you’ll see us in the winery that day instead of indulging in Indy. I hate to miss the entertainment as much as the wine, check it out!

Ok, let’s talk WINE-TASTING BUS TOUR; I have recently been talked to, arm twisted, and beat up a bit that we have not jumped back into the bus tour business since the recession of ‘08/’09. One reason is we wanted to get past the worst of the worst and it may be that we have. But I need to know, are there 22 couples out there who would like to visit eight wineries in Southern Indiana as part of a bus tour, food/motel included, for this coming August 28/29? Send us an email at with BUS TOUR in the subject line if you’re interested, not ready to commit, but interested. Cost run $200-$300 per couple all inclusive. Talk to me!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Time, Grape News, and Bread?

Can you believe its almost summer? When someone starts talking about how times flies, they are almost always over 40. When we are young time seems to drag, but as we age and minutes/days/hours become a smaller part of our life experience, time seems to speed up. As far as the winery goes, time is about going back to our seven-day-a-week schedule, beginning June 1. From then until December 31, we will only be closed national holidays, no longer do we have be closed on Election Day due to a recent change in the law.

A bit of good/bad news from a nearby winery, the New Day Meadery has closed their Elwood tasting room, with plans to open a downtown Indianapolis tasting room in the very near future. Apparently they will keep the Elwood location as a production facility, but not offer tasting their. I think this is a good move for Brett & Tia, their honey-based wines (mead) are very good and deserve a wider customer base that will appreciate the craftsmanship they bring to their products.

While the early warming trend this year has made a lot of people very happy to shed their winter clothes, the early bud-break on the grape vines around the state have led to some frost damage that will affect the available crop in the fall. The good news is the damage in most vineyards is not massive, but many lost some fruit. One vineyard in the northern part of the state reported a majority of their vines damaged, while southern vines were less hurt. This is not a surprise, but I thought the vineyard owner’s comment that, “…this was the worst damage in 17 years…” was worth noting. Hopefully the damage will not impact fruit prices too badly!

We are pleased to announce the annual Bread Baking Contest will be held Saturday, June 12 from 1-6 PM at the winery. This is a fun event that allows both professional and amateur bread-makers to showcase their skills. The professionally made breads will be taste tasted by everyone who visits the winery that day and the winner will be chosen by popular vote. The amateur bakers’ loaves will be judged by a panel of “expert” bread tasters who will chose the winner. Its fun, its free, and watch this spot for more information about more fun & free events at the Oak Hill Winery!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


So as the winery’s business has increased, we have starting having some very busy weekends. Now most of the time, that’s not a problem because both myself and my wife are around to back up the person working in the winery. But as we look at the upcoming summer months, we see some problems coming. We have vacations for both us and the staff; we have some special off-site events we are attending; we have three solid staffers who do not want to work too many weekends!

So we need to hire another person to help cover weekends, someone who would work at least two weekend-days and no more then four weekend-days a month. That is going to be a hard person to find, well, at least hard to find a GOOD person who can/will do that.

First, its not about the money. No one gets rich owning, so by extension, no gets rich working at a winery ten to twenty hours a month. Second, its as much about the person’s ability to interact with the customer as prior experience. How many times I have heard a customer say about another winery, “The wine was pretty good, but the guy pouring the samples was so colorless we did not enjoy the experience.” So we need someone who us colorful? Oh boy…

Its important to find the right person, because we pay for the bartenders license, we have to train the person- takes about three to four days of job shadowing to get the procedures figured out- so there is an investment there.

Plus this person IS THE WINERY when people visit; what he/she says or does is the basis for the opinion of our business and this person can literally make-or-break us. Scary huh?

So now it begins, the hunt for a “Weekender” to work at the winery, helping the staff and covering vacations, illness, and other openings. Do you know anyone who might want to work at a small winery for just a pittance and a tyrannical master (me)? Tell them to stop in and fill out an application…

Oh, and do not forget this weekend is the “Greatest Spectacle in Tasting” at Kokomo! See the Kokomo Tribune website for more details:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Thanks for the support!

As a business, you put a lot of time and money into special events and when one is a big success, its gratifying. Such was our Open House we held last Saturday, it was a big success from a business stand point and we hope from our customers’ perspective too.

While our biggest event is the September Cheesecake Festival, this little party came close to catching up. We had a lot of people visit, tour, and taste. I did not get out of the winemaking room for almost four hours and every tour (10) was well- attended with two overflowing into the stage area.

And we sold a lot of wine. This means I am back at work, bottling every evening and ordering supplies that are running short. I got a little surprise when I found we were out of “Sweetser” labels. So I am working up an order of labels so we can get some more wine out there. Any
more wine-name suggestions?

As we move into Summer, I realize we are just a few weeks from going back to our seven-day schedule until December 31. I was reading about voter reaction that liquor can now be sold during lections and primary days. I really think that’s a law that’s well put away, I doubt too many people who are drunk can be counted on to show up to vote and if they do, do we want them voting? I am not sure it would matter one way or another, that’s why I stay out of politics and put my faith in God instead.

In June we’ll be holding our seventh annual Bread Baking Contest for amateurs and professional bakers alike. Watch here for more dates and information to come!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Stop the rain dance!

So we have the Open House planned for tomorrow and everything is under control, except the weather? TV channel 8 says it will rain from 6 am til noon, then start up again after 7 pm. Well that’s dandy! That should give us the time we need for the open house and everyone can stay dry. We are planning just in case the weather is a bit damp, I am known by certain old friends as “the tarp man”, so I do have a plan.

There is a non-winery event I want to mention. Almost every year we attend the “Greatest Spectacle in Tasting” at Bona Vista programs in Kokomo. Its three huge tents full of wine, beer, food, and hundreds of silent auction items. Bona Vista is an organization that works with the MR/DD population and the physically challenged. This event is their main fund-raiser and we go most years and it is a very good time. The movers & shakers will be there and so will we. So We will be closing the winery at 6 sharp that day and heading over to Kokomo for a fun few hours. Here are the details:

Do not miss the GREATEST SPECTACLE IN TASTING on Saturday, May 15 from 6-9 PM at 1220 East Laguna in Kokomo. Taste fine wines, microbrews, and sample food from the area's best restaurants. This is a fund-raiser for Bona Vista Programs and tickets are $30 advance from Soupley's Wine & Spirits in Kokomo or $35 at the door. Live music, great auction items, we've gone for years and have a GREAT time. See you there!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Too Cold!

Ok, so I had a few minutes last night, so I worked on the website some more. Are you tired hearing about the website? Imagine how I must feel! LOL - I have something else I thought I would rant about, maybe you'll find it more interesting.

I am sick to death of being served COLD dry wines at restaurants! I go to a nice place, spend $20+ bucks on an appetizer, $20+ bucks on an entree, then another $20+ on what I hope is a decent wine. Then they bring it our and it is ICY cold. What is the matter with these people? Now i will admit there is some disagreement about what is the IDEAL temp' for each wine.

I looked at one wine site that listed over 100 wines at a variety of temps', especially the point that "cheap" wines should be colder then premium wines, to mute their undesirable flavor I guess.

BUT even this wine site showed it should not be 'beer' cold! The last red wine I ordered came as cold as soda pop, the last chardonnay was about the same. They stick the bottle in an ice bucket! Now, bring me a dry red at room temp and then stick it in an ice bucket, OK. A good red is best at below 70 degrees, closer to 60 in my view.

So, I have become a pain (I am certain) to some of our local eateries, since I want to send back any wine that is below 45 degrees. So do I start looking like a bigger wine geek by carrying a thermometer to check it? Well maybe, but I wish these folks who charge us outrageous prices ($28 for a >$10 wine? Now thats a mark-up!) for the wine they have to stock could at least get onboard and serve it at CLOSE to a reasonable temp.

What do you think? Click ‘comment’ below (no registration necessary) or email me at See you at the Open House!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Open House!

Every spring we traditionally have an Open House, in which we literally open the doors of the winery and welcome people in to see what goes on in our little operation. We are going to hold the 2010 Spring Open House on Saturday, May 1 from 1-6 pm.

We will offer you the opportunity to peek into the winemaking area, with a 15 minute formal tour held every half hour from 1 pm to 5:30 pm. I will be on hand to answer questions, show off our simple equipment, and talk wine with whomever cares to stop by and poke their head in.

We will have live music from 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm. Our old friend, Chad Shrock, the “Modern Minstrel” ( will be playing his mandolin and guitar. If you have not yet seen Chad, his musical mix runs from Celtic to Elvis and most things in between.

We’ll have a few other surprises too, a few snacks, and free winetasting as always. We hope you can join us at the Open House as we swing into Spring and head for Summer!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring Cleaning? nah...

Ahh Spring! I love the warm weather, the sunny days, but its time to cut grass! I have never liked cutting grass but am too cheap to hire someone to do it. I usually buy a new mower every two or three years, but five years ago I bought one that is till going, will it start again this year or will I get a new mower to kick off 2010?

I did spend a good bit of time in the yard already. There are weeds and debris to clean up and our grapevines got pruned back. I am please with the progress the transplanted vine has made growing up on the lattice over our outdoor seating area. If the vine survived the winter, it should fully cover the arbor this year after making good progress last year.

We will complete the painting of the winery and the house this year, one way or the other. I allowed too many other things to divert me last year and we will get it done. Taking down the Big Red Awning is a big job, but it has to happen. I will attack that no later then Memorial Day weekend. (Famous Last Words)

It’s true the older you get the faster time flies, relative to yourself anyway. We have less then two months before we go back to our seven-day-a-week schedule at the winery. I know some of you will be happy about that because you have said you prefer us being there, well it starts up again Tuesday, June 1.

NEW WINE NAMES: Yes, we are working on ten new labels and we would like your input on what local names you would like to see us use on these new labels. We are looking for places of local interest that sound like the name of a wine (no more votes for “Gas City” please!). Email us or make a “comment” (see below) here to submit your idea for our new wine label names.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Have you mowed yet?

The sun is shining and the grass is growing and temperatures are at July levels, welcome to April folks! The winery is staying quite busy (thank you!) and we survived the Kokomo Home Show last weekend.

The Home Show was a fun, we surprised a lot of people by being there, and met a lot of people who said, “We’ve been meaning to get out there…”. Its was a new experience for my wife, I have worked home shows before for other jobs, but she did not realize how long the day could be when you are standing and pouring wine for eight hours straight. We did buy a number of new things to allow us to work the show, a pop-up tent, a bar-height table, a new cash register, and a whole bunch of disposable wine glasses. So we are set for the next off-site event!

I have been asked about our April Special Event and I am happy to announce it will be Sunday, April 18th at 4:30 pm, entitled: “Winemaking at Home and in the Winery”. I will discuss and explain both basic home winemaking methods and commercial methods; we will include a walk through our winemaking area; and respond to any winemaking questions you have. As always, this 90-minute seminar is FREE and all you have to do is email us and reserve your spot(s). Watch us here in May, we’ll be having our Spring Open House with free tours and other fun stuff happening.

I do not know why I tend to use violent terms when discussing winemaking. A customer asked me about the blueberry I have been working on and I replied, “I have been beating it at least once a week and it has not yet come around!” This might well be a reflection of my frustration in why this wine has not come to a point we can bottle it or maybe I need to consider what TV shows I am watching?

If you have not been in recently, the new wines are well worth a try. I have been very happy with the new dry Chardonnel, SYCAMORE STUMP, because it has developed some very nice flavors. Its more then just a light crisp, white wine. Its actually got a bit more going on then that. It is a little young, but I’m drinking it!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

websites and home shows

Our website has been redone; again, I was just not happy with the look or the layout. I think the new website is not as flashy, but more functional. We will try to get the special event calendar set up asap. I am already getting questions about the bread-baking contest in June and the Cheesecake Festival in September. Soon, folks, soon!

We did decide to go ahead and try attending the Kokomo Home Show this weekend, so you will not see us in the winery much. One big obstacle to “doing” a home show is the cost of your booth itself; special items needed to run the booth like cash registers, credit card machines, sample cups, etc, etc, etc.

We did decide to charge $1 for tasting at the show as a way to recapture some of the overhead. Well, that and to deal with all those people who show and want to know what is “free” at your booth. How many pencils and pens can someone use in their lifetime, anyway?

The new wines have been well received, my staff kids me I have not come out with a “clunker” recently, I told them sooner or later it happens! We try to avoid that through test tastings of small batches. A good example I have mentioned before is the blueberry we have but have not bottled yet. I just cannot quite hit a good flavor with that wine yet, so we let it sit in the barrels for a while longer and then I will take another run at it.

I wanted to thank a number of you faithful readers for your regular emails in response to question we have posed here. It seems many of you hesitate to post a public “comment” (see below) but are quite willing to zing us an email. We appreciate that willingness and your input. As the weather warms up, so does the business at the winery and we hope to see you in there soon!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Wines are in!

So I was working last week in the winery and I finally got around to bottling several new wines. One I had looked forward to was our first Gewürztraminer which we call WATERTOWER in reference to the old water tower that was torn down last year, it was truly a landmark for local drivers and pilots. The wine has a nice flavor and turned out a bit sweeter than I expected it too. Give it a taste and let us know what you think.

We had a nice batch of Chardonnel grapes we got from Southern Indiana and we bottled the first barrel and called it SYCAMORE STUMP, if you’re from Kokomo you’ll get the name. Its a very nice dry white and my wife likes it a lot. So do I!

We are happy to announce we have bottled some more of our Cabernet Franc, RIVERWALK, which I thought was a little too light in body. Our customers disagreed and have been complaining. I was going to blend it with some Foch, but the people have spoken. Stop by this weekend and try it.

The issue of light bodied reds is interesting, because most winemakers tend to prefer full- to medium-bodied wines. Many light reds are thought to be too thin in the mouth, with not a great deal of flavor volume. I have always felt that was untrue and our customers who are not red wine drinkers are telling us they LIKE the lighter reds, so we will continue to offer simples, easy-to-drink red wines as one more distinguishing point in our favor, sales-wise.

I know several people are waiting to hear about our April special event and if you can be patient, we will have that information out very soon. I want to thank those who have commented on the new website, still under construction, we think it has a bit more up-to-date look then the old one. We hope to have some video added in soon and maybe even a podcast? Keep watching!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Home Shows & Websites

We were recently invited to be a part of the Z92.5 Home Show at the Kokomo Event Center on US 31 on March 27-28. Now I have blown off these types of events over the years because I did not see a fit for a winery in them. But I have attended several similar shows recently and I am amazed at the number of non-home-type vendors that are there selling all kinds of stuff.

Then I went to the Indianapolis Home show, the one held at the fairgrounds. I saw Barefoot Cellars there sampling and selling their wine in a pretty fancy booth. And they were pretty darn busy too! I asked several people what they thought of a winery at the home show and got positive responses from all. One lady said it was a nice break from all the walking around, a vendor mentioned he loved the idea of potential customer s having a drink while shopping!?

So what do you think? Do you need a quick sip while wandering the Home Show? Would you buy a glass or a bottle of wine you liked, -at a home show? You can email us at or click the ‘comment’ link below.

A bit of good news, we finally were able to get the name bought, registered, whatever. We have been waiting for ten years for whoever owned it to contact us or stop re-registering the name, and they finally did! For now, the will remain our website, but we will eventually set up a parallel site under the new name and begin the phase-out of the old name over a few years.

Have you visited our newly revamped website? Its still under construction, but I am getting he hang of the new program now, a few bugs to track down and kill. Any suggestions as to new content? Let us know….

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bad Planning or We Need a Bigger Winery?

We have survived the snow, so far! In the winery business continues to be brisk, I suspect many people are getting cabin fever and need to get out. I hope we have had our snow for the year, its been colder and snowier then a normal year and could use a break myself.

We had our free WINE 101 workshop last Sunday and had a very nice turnout for this program. We like helping people become more wine-literate and it gives us good feedback on what new customers want, like, and think. Watch this space for next month’s free seminar in the coming weeks!

I did have a little problem in the winery regarding the seminar. A BUNCH (way more then four) of our regular folks had made arrangements to meet at the winery and enjoy some wine and snacks. I noticed the BUNCH about 45 minutes before the seminar and went out to let them know we had another group coming in and, well. You know; --Yea, that went over like a lead balloon!

It’s never happened quite like that before and we are not sure how to handle it so it does not happen in the future. We typically ask people who plan on bringing big groups in to let us know, but we have had informal gatherings of people like this at the winery for several years, almost since we first added seating.

When all is said and done, I guess we might just say “Crap Happens” and move on. But we do encourage anyone who PLANS to bring more then six people in for a tasting or to hang around several hours, please check with us so we can accommodate you. We do not want to disappoint, honk-off, irritate, or inconvenience anyone.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Free Wine Seminar Happens Soon!

Ok, another snowstorm is hammering our area here, but we care not! All that matters is wine, wine, and more wine! We were surprised at the business we had in the winery have my prior rant as to how weather and football kills business, OK I was wrong!

New on the horizon is WINE 101, one in our continuing series of free workshops we hold at the winery. This is a fun and informative one hour session on the in-and-outs of wine. We will talk about stuff like what wine names mean, what is a varietal, and what is an AVA? The workshop will be held this coming Sunday, Feb 14, at 4:30 pm. LOOK GUYS! This is a way you can “Do Something” on a lazy winter afternoon and get credit for having good ideas,

We had a very nice time in Gas City at the Thompson-Ray house wine-tasting. The people there were very kind and said many nice things. We even got a nice article in the local newspaper which featured a shot of the Wine Maker his-self!

Another almost new thing at the winery is several new wines I keep hinting at, but do not ever seem to get bottled. No, I have still not bottled any, but we are getting closer. For example, every fall we introduce an “oaked” version of our popular dry white, MISSISSINEWA WHITE. One problem is we do not also offer the un-oaked version at the same time. Well, we’re almost out of the oaked version and I would expect in a few weeks, the last barrel of our crisp Seyval Blanc will get bottled and labeled.

Once that last barrel is gone, we will move to a Chardonnel version of this label. I suspect many will be delighted, a few disappointed, but you know the old saying, you can’t please everybody all the time!

Have you got a wine related question you’d like answered? Write us at and we’ll try to post our responses as soon as possible.

Friday, February 5, 2010

snow and free stuff?

Oh no! A major snowstorm is bearing down on the winery on a Friday on a weekend that is already marked by The Big Game. I mention this because snowstorms are a business killer, people seem to hunker down during and after a snowstorm and our business slows way down.

This weekend the Big Game will also slow business, wine does not seem to be a “football drink” for most people. Maybe we need the Gallo Bowl to compete with the Bud Bowl? It has been good to see the growth of wine appreciation in general over the past ten years. One publication claims wine sales have gone up every year for the past ten on a national basis.

So, one thought would be if you need something to do this weekend, stop by and see us, we’ll be happy to see you and we’ll have a good bit of time to give you more then the usual amount of attention.

On a side note, I had been asked several months ago to speak at a fund-raiser in Gas City being held tonight and now the snow is a-coming. I hope we do not get too much to botch up the fund raiser, I support a few not-for-profit events, but this is about historical preservation, one of my hot buttons and we are glad to help out.

Another hot button of mine is how many times we get asked to donate stuff every week! The first year we did pitch in a good bit for local stuff as advertising, to let people know we are here. But we get letters from anybody and everybody now and even other states asking us to donate! Now most of these are non-profits and many are charitable institutions, but we have got to be a bit selective as to who we give to and when.

Thanks, I needed to say that, just got a call from a Union in Indy wanting three gift baskets for a meeting they were having, Arragh!

Monday, February 1, 2010

rested and ready for The Big Game

This week is a busy one in the winery, because I have not been busy doing much for the last month! As previously mentioned, January is our slow-down, de-stress time after the rush of the gift-giving season. I must admit I have accomplished a bit in both the actual de-stressing and fixing-a-few-problems arena.

We finally found a good cooler for the tasting room. We have wanted to stock locally-made cheese and a larger number of chilled wine bottles for our customers, now we can! This will allows us to have our small wine coolers just for tasting bottles.

I have had a number of requests for a Super Bowl party at the winery, especially for wine club members. I think this happened after I set up my old 25” color TV in the tasting room so we could watch the AFC Playoffs. We knew from prior experience our business would be down due to the game, so we decided we’d hang out in the winery and watch ourselves, keeping an eye on the TV and whatever customers who showed up. That amounted to less then ten people in the door from 3 pm to 6 pm and none of them cared about football. But what about the Big Game?

Now, a business cannot just turn on a TV and show the Super Bowl, the game is licensed to for-profits and even not-for-profits for a substantial fee. I heard of several churches that got in trouble for hosting Super Bowl parties without paying their fee, got to pay Caesar his tax!

I am amused by the fact the term “Super Bowl” cannot be used in an ad without paying for it. So you are hearing “the Big Game” and “Championship game” in place of the Real name of the event.

The game starts at 6 pm, we close at 6 pm, we are not having a party, so we are not worried about it. I expect most people have already made plans for where they will be to watch the Game. I hope they remember to pick up some wine to enjoy during the game, we will be open 1-6 pm day of “The Big Game”!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

so it goes

I have told many people who visit the winery one of the winemaker’s challenges is following the progression of taste a wine goes through as it matures. I taste the wine every other week to see what progress has come about, check it for surface molds (yuck!), and check sugar and acid levels.

As an example, I have a wine we put into barrels this fall that I have decided is too sweet, we stopped the fermentation too soon. So I have the choice of re-fermenting all the wine again and trying to stop it at a better sugar level, or do one barrel and ferment it all the way to dryness and then blend it into the too-sweet remaining stock. Which method I choose has yet to be decided, but either should accomplish what we need here, a properly balanced wine.

Last weekend we moved a lot of wine around, “racking” or transferring wine from one container to another has a significant effect on the flavor and character. It is a little more work for us to rack then a typical winery since we have to minimize oxygen contact with the wine since we do not use sulfites as a preservative. The racking process also causes the wine to precipitate out many solids that might otherwise drop out in the bottle.

So the winemaking process goes on, and on, and on. It is what makes winemaking interesting and a constant challenge. But if you do not love it, you might as well get another job…

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New & Improved?

So what is the new stuff in the new year? Well, we are going to upgrade the winery website, I have the first draft done, tried to upload it, but no go yet. So I have some homework to do on how to tear down the old site and replace it with the new.

New seating for the winery? We are considering replacing some seating we have know with some more of the theatre-style seats we already have some of in place. This will allow us to return the old folding seats to storage for use when needed, we often have private parties exceed 20 people.

Background music? One of the many little things about the winery that make me smile is our current “music system”. It’s a $39 Walmart boom box I picked up just before we opened the winery, seeing I was not going to have time install a proper music system before we opened. To think we are still using it six and a half years later is fairly funny, but what’s even funnier is the comments I’ve gotten about how good it sounds. In my day job I sell commercial audio, both fore- and back-ground systems. It’s the old story of the plumber whose wife has a leaky sink that never gets fixed. We have the equipment in-house now to get the right stuff hooked up and sounding good, including outdoors!

Will there be new wines coming out soon? Possibly, we have a blueberry and a Gewurztraminer that are getting close to drink-ability and we might just have those available in the next few months.

The biggest change at the winery is we have new hours since the first of the year. They really are not “new”, we’ve been following this policy since our third year. We are now open SATURDAY and SUNDAY ONLY until June. Still 1-6 PM, so you will find us there at the usual times. One small change is we are keeping the staff on throughout the year and we (Rick & Betty Jo) will be in the winery from time-to-time. We had a very busy 2009 winter season and we thought the extra help would be useful, plus allow us to do more things besides work in the winery every weekend.
Ahh the (almost) Good Life…